Potpourri (17 cents)

Once again, I have fallen hopelessly behind, and each of these items deserves more attention than I can give:

“Much Ado About Nothing” – Two years ago, I saw a production of this Shakespeare comedy at the Folger Theater. It was set in Washington DC among the city’s immigrant Caribbean community, had color blind casting than pared whites, blacks and Asians in less than credible family groupings, and. Had some bad acting to boot. My expectations were tamped down, to say the least, when I went to the currently running production of the Shakespeare Theatre last week. But it is an extraordinary production, not at all harmed by it having been set, so they say, in 1930s Havana, a locale which allows for a light filled rural setting and some infectious music, without taking away from the characterization. I still think the play itself is a pretty dumb one, albeit with some very clever and beautiful dialogue, but I doubt you can do much better than this production. We topped it off the next day by attending the three hour symposium that Hannah arranged and moderated, which provided much insight from local university scholars and the show’s choreographer.

“Puss in Boots” – not the movie, but the British panto put on by Washington’s British Players at the Kensington Armory three weekends in December, with Michelle playing Princess Miranda, daughter of the queen-in-drag who falls in love with the dispossessed, but soon to be overly rich, miller’s son. So it’s not my favorite panto and many of the jokes make you yawn rather than chuckle, but all the kids loved it, and it was well done and a lot of fun. No intellectual symposium followed this one.

Martin Goldsmith – a very nice presentation by author/radio host Martin Goldsmith about his parents, Jewish musicians from Germany who played in the Frankfurt Kulturbund during the Nazi years, getting out of the country just before all emigration was halted by the Nazis. And how, after they settled in St. Louis and then Cleveland, where his father played in the orchestras, there was no talk about their experiences until after his mother died and he convinced his father to come with him to the Holocaust Museum shortly after it opened in Washington. The presentation was accompanied by a string quarter playing music written by Jewish prisoners at Terezin. All at a meeting o f Generation After, a survivors’ organization to which my wife belongs.

“Anyone’s Daughter” by Shana Alexander – the story of the Patty Hearst trial. A daughter of the Hearst journalistic empire, she was kidnapped by members of the self-named Symbionese Liberation Front, a group of young radicals, mainly white but pushing causes of blacks, where she was first held blindfolded and tied up in a closet and then “joined” her captivies, renaming herself Tania, and participating in at least one bank robbery, where her image was caught by security cameras. Eventually arrested, she was tried and convicted, serving several years in prison until her sentence was commuted. She eventually married one of her jail guards, to whom she is still married, and moved to live a quiet life in New England. Was she guilty of bank robbery, or did she have an excuse, such as “diminished capacity” or “brainwashing”? And if she had such an excuse, was it a legal excuse or a moral excuse? Alexander, fascinated by Hearst, followed the case day by day through the eight week trial period and got to know all of the participants. Her informal transcripts of the proceedings and asides, the comments made by those involved (including chief defense counsel F. Lee Bailey), and the reactions of all to the jury verdict make for fascinating reading, as well as refreshing one’s knowledge of something that happened a long time ago, when the world seemed so different.

“The Immortal Bartfuss” by Aharon Appelfeld – Israeli novel, set in Jaffa, follows a portion of the life of Bartfuss and other Holocaust survivors, people who met after the war in Italy over twenty years before, and who were and are trying to rebuild their lives in Israel. A short book, it focuses on the characters’ isolation – from others, from their own selves, from the world. An isolation that seems to encompassing ever to be breached. A quiet book – since the characters find it so difficult even to talk. And a sad one. And an excellent one.

Good meals at Clydes and Tacklebox. Improv and dance at the Shakespeare Theatre’s Wednesday noontime Happenings.

More to come.

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